Close the dig­i­tal di­vide

The Wokingham Paper - - VIEWPOINTS -

It is per­haps un­sur­pris­ing that after months of iso­la­tion, and hav­ing dis­cov­ered the fea­si­bil­ity of work­ing from home, more town and city-dwellers are con­sid­er­ing a move to the coun­try­side.

The coun­try­side prom­ises cleaner air, vast open ex­panses and an abun­dance of nat­u­ral life.

Some polls sug­gest that as many as 40% of all prospec­tive house-buy­ers are look­ing to re­lo­cate to ru­ral areas.

But many of th­ese planned moves rest on the as­sump­tion that work­ing from home will be as easy in the coun­try­side as it is in the city.

All too of­ten, this is not the case. If the Covid-19 cri­sis has made plain how much our eco­nomic life re­lies on tech­nol­ogy and dig­i­tal skills, it has also high­lighted the yawn­ing di­vide in con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween our ur­ban and ru­ral areas.

I know peo­ple liv­ing in ru­ral “not spots”, who try and find key areas with 4G sig­nal to take im­por­tant calls or share large doc­u­ments, be that at the end of the gar­den or driv­ing to the top of a hill.

We wel­come the agree­ment struck be­tween the Gov­ern­ment and mo­bile op­er­a­tors, which en­tails shar­ing the cost of phone masts as part of a £1 bil­lion plan to end poor mo­bile cov­er­age in the coun­try­side, but what mat­ters now is de­liv­ery.

Mark Bridge­man, President of the Coun­try Land and Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion (CLA), which rep­re­sents farm­ers, landown­ers and ru­ral busi­nesses.

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